Autumn’s Carlisle Toy Fair, September 28th

a classic model train in motion at Carlisle Toy Fair 2014

There’ll be classic, vintage and new trains, planes, trucks, tanks, dolls, soft toys, movie and TV memorabilia, posters and games at Carlisle’s Autumn Toy Fair on Sunday, September 28, 2014

By Charles Paxton

Cumbria’s largest toy fair will return to Carlisle’s H&H Convention Centre on Sunday September 28th for the second time in 2014. The fair is biannual and now’s the chance to admire, buy, swap or sell the toys, models, figures and games of years past in preparation for Christmas.

This time you can purchase Early Bird tickets and thus get in before the main opening! See Carlisle Toy Fair website for all the latest information!

The March 2014 Fair was the best attended yet, and there’ll be a host of new and familiar trader stalls again for the September fair which promises new treasures of the toy boxes and cabinets of northern Britain!

Enthusiasts exchange specialist knowledge at Carlisle Toy Fair

Talk to knowledgeable enthusiasts at the displays !

Whether you are into Daleks or dolls, light sabres or light railway locomotives, there’s a huge range of models, figures and toys.  There are also display cabinets for your treasures. When hunger strikes or you need to rest your feet a while there’s great food at the H&H centre’s Borderway Cafe. There you can refresh yourselves while you talk toys together, admire your prized purchases or just reflect on all the amazing things you’ve seen and what you’ll be seeing next.

Model cars and trucks and much more , Carlisle Toy Fair is an ideal hunting ground for for collectors and Christmas shoppers alike.

Model cars and trucks and much more , Carlisle Toy Fair is an ideal hunting ground for for collectors and Christmas shoppers alike.

There are interesting displays every time. At the March ’14 toy fair we saw Meccano robotic magicians and an enormous crane courtesy of the North East Meccano Society. Please don’t be shy to ask questions about the things you like because there are mavens here from northern Britain who are happy to impart their considerable knowledge to fellow model and toy-lovers regardless of your own passion, whether it be railways, military vehicles, diggers, tractors, rockets, board games or soft-toys.

Joe Etheridge, North East Meccano Society President with The Meccano Wizard which performs robotic magic tricks!

Joe Etheridge, North East Meccano Society President with The Meccano Wizard which performs robotic magic tricks!

Daleks and steam engines, there's a wide range of models and toys at Carlisle Toy Fair to suit varied tastes.

Daleks and steam engines, there’s a wide range of models and toys at Carlisle Toy Fair to suit varied tastes.

Carlisle Toy Fair organizer, Alan Gunston of AG Collectibles displaying his increasingly popular poster art work at the March 2014 Carlisle Toy Fair.  Alan's love of trains and bridges is conveyed in his atmospheric fine art poster prints on railway themes!

Carlisle Toy Fair organizer, Alan Gunston of AG Collectibles displaying his increasingly popular poster art work at the March 2014 Carlisle Toy Fair. Alan’s love of trains and bridges is conveyed in his atmospheric fine art poster prints on railway themes!

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Up Front Theatre Presents The Pied Piper Of Hamelin

Magical performance of The Pied Piper of Hamelin at The Upfront Gallery Puppet Theatre

Magical performance of The Pied Piper of Hamelin at The Upfront Gallery Puppet Theatre

Yesterday we greatly enjoyed a family trip to see The Pied Piper Of Hamelin at The Upfront Gallery in Unthank, near Hutton-In-The-Forest. It’s traditional to see a show at Christmas time and everything about this one in the new 128 seat theatre at The Upfront Gallery was very good. I was stunned by the high-end  production value and I hardly saw any strings until the performance was over and there was a fun ‘meet the puppets’ session. The sets and puppets were fantastic and very vibrant – these were based closely on designs from Michael Morpurgo’s book, the voicing was excellent and the music was delightfully evocative.

It’s perfect for families. My nephews particularly loved the donkey and the dynamic action of the rats, which are very spritely and amusing! The Upfront performers were brilliant, I thought, I was surprised that  just five of them emerged when they took their bows.

Very talented rod and string puppeteers of the Upfront Gallery in Unthank taking their bows.

Very talented rod and string puppeteers of the Upfront Gallery in Unthank taking their bows.

If you enjoy charming entertainment I heartily recommend you to see this show while you can. All Tickets £8:00 Performances: Dec. 31st at 2pm only Dec. 24, 28, 29, 30 & 31st at 1pm & 3:30pm Jan. 2nd & 3rd at 1pm & 3:30pm

The art gallery is worth seeing too and the food in the cafe is delicious and very reasonably priced offering tasty tray bakes, snacks and full meals.

Call the Upfront Gallery, Coffee Shop and Puppet Theatre Enquiries Telephone number for booking or more info 017684 84538

Or see  their website for more details  http://www.up-front.com/puppet_theatre.html

Brougham Hall – treasures and treats for visitors to Cumbria

The Tudor Hall and main gate at historic Brougham Hall

The Tudor Hall and main gate at historic Brougham Hall

“Andy Luck and I looked into historic Brougham Hall last weekend. Andy was testing some rather fine digital cameras for technical review articles in Cumbria for Outdoor Photography and Black and White Photographer magazines.  You’ll have to read the magazines for his reviews and technical insights, but can view some of his images on wildopeneye blog.  From photographing wild flower meadows and dry stone walls in the Westmorland Fells and a sweeping vista of cotton grass framed by Scots pines at Cliburn Moss we had a big appetite for the tasty smoked chicken and mayo baguettes and elderflower cordial at Brougham Hall’s Fusion Cafe.

Delicious smoked Chicken baguette from fusion cafe at Brougham Hall

Delicious smoked Chicken baguette from Fusion Cafe at Brougham Hall

I’d been a few times before, on one occasion to see a fine performance of Romeo & Juliet here, it’s an excellent theatrical venue and the nicely mixed G&Ts added to the enjoyment!
Brougham Hall is open to the public while being lovingly restored and is host to an artisan community of potters, photographers and a jewellery designer. It is also home to House Martins Delichon urbicum. There’s a very pleasant atmosphere and lots of nice photographic subjects.

 

It was a great lunch. Elderflower cordial is, to my mind, the quintessential taste of English Summer and the tender, juicy smoked breast of chicken in freshly made crusty granary baguette went down very well indeed, they are a nice combination of flavours. Helpful, friendly staff too. Thumbs up for the Fusion Cafe!
Andy Luck of Wildopeneye photographing Martins at Brougham Hall

Andy Luck of Wildopeneye photographing Martins at Brougham Hall

One Martin coming, one going, both carrying construction mud. Odd!

One Martin coming, one going, both carrying construction mud. Odd!

House Martins collecting mud

House Martins collecting mud

It was lunch with a show, thanks to the Hirundines. If our lunch was interrupted a bit, by the bird life, Andy and I certainly weren’t complaining, and we didn’t suffer hiccups despite our repeated attempts to capture images of the graceful Martins, swooping in flight over our heads between bites and swigs. They were impossible to resist.

Andy was using an enormous Nikon with a lens like a bazooka. The sight seemed very apt to me, considering that Brougham Hall had been a secret base, developing specialist tanks with giant search lights in weapons testing that took place here during the Second World War. I wonder what Mr. Churchill would have made of Andy tracking the birds with his giant telephoto zoom?

Andy Luck and Nikon with enormous telephoto zoom lens

Andy Luck and Nikon with enormous telephoto zoom lens

Punctuating our meal with attempts to photograph these charming and very agile aerodynamics was rather fun. The Martins and some swifts were busy in the process of nest building, at the same time a young restoration builder was at work mixing cement, these birds were landing just in front of us and picking up mud in their bills to apply to the stone walls in a constant relay.
The industrious avian efforts delightfully coincide with Brougham Hall’s human restoration project. In tandem, the respective structures are being rebuilt. The people have achieved a lot since my last visit. Cobbles have been revealed in the courtyard and the Chancellor’s office is much further restored.
Brougham Hall’s high castle walls rise sheer above a great brazen beast mask door knocker (a replica of Durham Cathedral’s famous sanctuary knocker). The Hall began life as a medieval fortified manor and was updated over the ensuing centuries, witnessing the bloody civil war battle of Clifton Moor below its ramparts.

 

Ramparts reputedly haunted, I should add. Like every good castle, Brougham Hall has its ghost stories and its treasures.
Unlike other good castles, Brougham Hall has treasures that you can take away with you. Treasures from the artisan community that works within the castellated walls.
There’s silver and golden jewellery here, created by contemporary designer and maker Susan Clough. She and Professional Photographer and writer Simon Whalley were enjoying a coffee on a bench outside her studio cum shop Silver Susan. We struck up conversation, initially about the Martins.
She noted that the birds had been busy for a while on their nests but had little to show for it. The photo above may explain why progress wasn’t as advanced as she expected, as one bird goes in with a beakful of mud, another can be seen emerging with a beakful, presumably carrying it off to build a nest elsewhere!
Silver Susan flanked by Chimaera  in her studio at Brougham Hall

Silver Susan flanked by Chimaera in her studio at Brougham Hall

Talk then turned to the distinctive spiral pendant around her neck, one of her creations. Susan explained the appeal of crafting jewellery “I find working with metal very satisfying,” she says “I love the quality of the metal. Silver, gold, even brass. In my designs, I try to bring out the essential character of each metal ” It’s a love that shines through in the fluid designs, we discovered, as we looked in on her studio shop and admired her craft work.
Silver Susan at work in her studio.

Silver Susan at work in her studio.

The striking silver necklace of rings pictured here is an exemplar of the collection. In keeping with the quirky surprises that Brougham Hall offers the visitor (the ice house, knocker, the chapel accessed by bridge and a sculpture of Christ in crucifixion) the doorway to her craft work shop is flanked by an extraordinarily buxom pair of  stone Chimaera excavated from the woods nearby. The craft community also assist in the reconstruction. Susan has helped excavate the cobbled courtyard.
Silver treasure at Brougham Hall,by Silver Susan

Silver treasure at Brougham Hall,by Silver Susan

Before departing to the Lakeland Fells for our own photography, we looked in on Simon Whalley’s photographic gallery.
Simon Whalley, Writer and Photographer at ease in his lovely studio at Brougham Hall.

Simon Whalley, Writer and Photographer at ease in his lovely studio at Brougham Hall.

Simon Whalley is a photographer and writer. In his gallery, Simon’s explorations into Man’s connection with nature and harmony are displayed in lovely surroundings. Simon’s writing and photographic work focuses on the relationships between landscape and human interactions.  We saw an exhibition there featuring his Spirit of Hartside project, the resulting book Spirit of Hartside captures exactly that. If you are familiar with Hartside you will very likely enjoy it, and for those new to the famous viewpoint, it makes a good introduction. It is available from his shop and can also be ordered from his website http://simonwhalley.org, which you might also find is worth an exploratory visit.
 Simon is currently working on a book about the Settle Carlisle Railway that promises similarly to capture the spirit of the line and how it connects with the landscape.
His gallery is open from 11 am to 5 pm.
We moved on from Brougham Hall, refreshed, inspired and fond of the place and the people there.
Watch out for images of Brougham Hall from Andy Luck’s visit in Outdoor Photography magazine

LLBG Community Broadband Gains Public Support In Morland Meeting

Lance Greenhalgh explaining our options. Catherine Anderson Photo

Lance Greenhalgh explaining our options. Catherine Anderson Photo

About 100 people attended an event at Morland Village Hall on Wednesday evening that was both educational and interactive. Through some informative speeches and a clear, concise slide presentation there emerged a clearer understanding of the issues and of residents’ options on the matter, and also a clear mandate for the group to investigate the establishment of a Community owned broadband project.

Freddy Markham, Chair of the LLBG introduced the meeting with some essential general background information about the need to connect the final third (our rural communities) through a community driven project because the large providers are preoccupied with the cities and the rural areas would be too expensive to connect without spirited cooperation of the community and the granting of free wayleaves by landowners. He introduced Louis Mosely, aide to Rory Stewart MP for Penrith and The Border.

Louis introduced the idea of the Eden Declaration as an important statement of desired service and talked about the possibility of long-term low interest loans from the Big Society Bank.

Tom Lowther, our Cumbria County Councilor then explained Cumbria County Council’s desire to get the best value for money for Cumbria as a whole and said CCC was working with Mike Kiely of Broadband Development UK to seek the best way of serving a great number of people and organisations, he admitted that though the FTTC approach with BT didn’t match the specifications demanded by Champions through the Eden declaration, it could happen with the assistance of public funding from Broadband Development UK and by going through thorough public procurement procedures.

Lance Greenhalgh then delivered a concise and comprehensive slide presentation offering an overview of technological options for digital services – he emphasised that there was more to this subject than broadband itself .

He didn’t rule out satellite, wireless and fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) as each service may suit certain circumstances, but reinforced the position that Fibre to the home/premises (FTTH/P) was the best value future-proof solution available to us at this time. (NB because it’s future proof we can proceed with confident belief that it isn’t: likely to become obsolete / likely to be superseded anytime soon).

The Great Asby Group advised the retention of at least one normal phone line with plain ordinary telephone per village for emergency use in power outages. Lance mentioned the Femtocell solution for getting mobile signals into our homes via broadband and the usefulness of wireless service for Caravan parks and for remote outliers. He briefly covered who might deliver our services and finished off with a speedy overview of the considerable anticipated benefits of fast broadband.

Questions from the floor followed: how would video on demand TV work over FTTH? Extra equipment would be necessary : A YouView set-top box could be connected via ethernet cable and thence to a TV.

There was a question about whether way-leaves had been agreed yet. Mr. Markham answered that he had contacted, and was awaiting responses from, various parties.

There was a question about the sort of structure necessary to provide the Community service, Community Interest Company or Industrial Provident Society, but this was agreed to be a subject that would be better explored after establishing the extent of demand.

Our collective response to various questions, using Cumbria County Council’s electronic voting system brought the event to a conclusion. The voting system allows public opinion to be expressed collectively with anonymity.

For more on the subject please see the results and associated commentary at  www.broadbandcumbria.com and www.Leith-Lyvennet.broadbandcumbria.com

Carlisle Conference Heralds Paradigm Shift Toward Localism!

By Charles Paxton (Broadband Champion for Lyvennet Valley Community)

Better communications are increasingly being seen as essential for appropriate societal response to some important challenges of our times. Inclusive information exchange is critically important for:

More effective local government, Rural business development, Community health care outreach, Neighbourhood, Farm and business security, Regional renewable energy target obligations.

On Saturday, January 17th, 2011,  interested members of the public participated in a conference at Carlisle Racecourse, hosted by Carlisle Parish Councils Association and sponsored by British Telecom plc. that as Ronnie Auld Chair of CPCA pointed out effectively heralds a paradigm shift away from traditional top-down, Big Government – Small Society,  toward bottom-up, Big Society local empowerment. Better communications are being seen as an essential element in the transition toward greater inclusion and participation. Make no mistake, we’re not just talking about modernising technology here, a crucial element of localism is the Big Society ideal of greater public engagement in our society in multiple ways, including frank and open public dialogue and debate about the way we would like things to be. The effective exchange of ideas, perspectives and factual information is naturally expected to communicate, refine and improve ideas that can then inform practice to help steer progressive development.

As resources aren’t infinite, an important motivational factor for us is efficiency, making the most of our available resources! This is true in all matters, but especially relevant when it comes to our communications infrastructure.

BT will be making the single largest private investment of all time into upgrading British Communications infrastructure in the UK! Two and a half billion pounds.

However, unless we act in a cleverly coordinated fashion to gain maximum leverage from our existing resources, then our remote rural areas, often referred to as “the final third”, are likely to be the last areas to be connected to future proof Next Generation Access speed broadband. That’s generally considered to be symmetrical broadband at over 50 Mbps download and upload (fast enough for telemedicine applications).  Ironically, it is just these remote areas that most need connectivity to overcome the challenges represented by geophysical rural isolation, according to recent reports:

http://leith-lyvennet.broadbandcumbria.com/2010/12/09/reports-show-importance-of-rural-broadband/

There is open debate on BroadbandCumbria.com about how best to go about achieving an Eden-wide network and I recommend that you join the site, read up about it and have your say. It’s particularly important that you read The Eden Declaration (a credo statement for a desired level of service throughout Eden), and sign it too, if you agree with its contents.

The scale of the task is epic, the complexities are “eye-wateringly complex” (quoting Rory Stewart, our  MP for Penrith and The Border) but the impact is likely to resonate far into the future, promising a broad range of benefits.

The Localism Bill, likely soon to become an Act, promises to give the most local of our authorities, our Parish Councils, far greater say in many of the matters that concern us most – our local ones. This is both a momentous development and a very necessary one to help our communities cope appropriately with the current and future challenges of modern life, and just as crucially, to make the most of the opportunities.

Click here to view a digest of new powers that will help increase the influence of local authorities Localism digest

Ronnie Auld, Chair of Carlisle Parish Councils Association opened the conference with an introductory speech explaining the format of the conference, the first half examining the current problems associated with broadband in Carlisle District and its surroundings and the second half examining the likely impacts of the Decentralising and Localism bill currently before parliament. He pointed out that both the broadband problems and the localism agenda warranted an issues-based approach on the part of Parish Councils. He said Parish councils will be playing a very important role in the improvement of broadband in keeping with the Localism agenda. He drew attention to a Carlisle area survey document in our conference pack and said that alongside quantitive data about the speeds that people reported getting, there were comments that reflected that their broadband services left a lot to be desired, and compared very badly in some cases to conditions in other countries. He cited several examples of disastisfaction, one experienced problematic disconnections and just 0.39 Mbps of speed. He talked of the importance of including broadband in Community Planning.

See his speech below (kindly made available by John Popham)

http://www.youtube.com/p/0FB6CCA183CA70A6?hl=en_US&fs=1

He introduced the next speaker, Rt. Hon. Rory Stewart MP for Penrith and The Border, as our Broadband Champions’ Champion!

Rory Stewart, Broadband Champions' Champion emphasises that people inlocal communities know more, care more and can do more than remote officials.

Rory sits on the Localism Bill Committee and is one of the prime forces in the movement to bring more powers to the most local levels of government. He explained in no uncertain terms that community involvement would be essential in the effective roll-out of broadband throughout Eden and that unless there is seen to be a very good reason to stop them, the assumption should be to let each Parish or group of Parishes drive their project forward. He urged us to move away from the old state of affairs where Parish Councils  could only suggest things or be consulted to one where it is assumed that they know what they are doing.

He says “Let’s create a situation where people want to sit on Parish Councils because they know that they’ll have the power, the responsibility and sometimes the financial authority to bring about change.”

The necessity for popular local participation is partly due to financial considerations. In order to connect the 27,000 homes in Eden by conventional methods (@about £5000 per household) we’d be looking at a total of around £135 million.

He then explained that  funds have been allocated for a pilot study to help kick start the process, but that these funds were going to be spread thinly – “a proportion of £10 million” will come to Eden. This is where community support comes into it’s own. If we are prepared to gather, to define the demand and to aggregate it, to say that 70-80% of the community are prepared to use fast broadband then the economics become favourable for provision, if land owners are prepared to fore-go wayleaves, if communities are prepared to engage imaginatively and to use local assets, then the cost per premises could be reduced dramatically! Perhaps reduced to about £1000!

( Re asset sharing, please see this encouraging document (http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/business-sectors/docs/b/10-1308-broadband-deployment-sharing-infrastructure-summary-of-responses.pdf) that was drawn to my attention on broadbandcumbria.com shortly  after the conference!)

Barry Forde has since proposed a hypothetical plan that would employ great leverage, please click here to view

This is fascinating, we are now starting to get an idea of the potential tangible value in pounds of effective local democracy at Parish and Neighbourhood level and the potential value of intelligent mutualism within a competitive business framework! This is aside from, but would be compounded by the massive benefits to be derived from the better communications technology itself!

Localism clearly has major implications for our economic and social development.

Rory Stewart explaining how local community support can make fast internet accessible to Eden residents

Rory Stewart explaining how local community support can make fast internet accessible to Eden residents

Rory then said that if the Government were prepared to make patient finance available (perhaps via Parish Councils) that could be paid back at say £60 per year, then fast broadband service would seem far more attainable.

He then talked of the need to overcome a series of obstacles in technology, existing technical infrastructure and regulation. In order to make sure that the taxpayers £10 is used as well as possible then there’ll need to be an enormous amount of work done by government and civil servants. We’ll probably have a mixed solution. He cited the enormous amount of enthusiasm that was emerging in Parishes such as Crosby Ravensworth for super fast fibre to the home and said that while this unparalleled speed suited some people, he realises that other people may find a slower service acceptable.

He then introduced Bill Murphy of BT as the second guest speaker. His speech will be the subject of my next article.

Kevan Taylor’s Winter Driving Advice

 

Winter Driving In Cumbria

By Kevan Taylor, Driving Instructor

 

Kevan Taylor of Eden Valley's KT Driving School

Kevan Taylor of Eden Valley's KT Driving School

Here are some useful winter driving tips :- Make sure all your fluids are topped up & the correct ratio of anti-freeze to water is maintained in both coolant and screen wash reservoirs. Check tyres are in good order with the correct tread depth with a minimum of  1.6 mm of tread & correct pressure in tyres for maximum grip in slippery conditions. Always clear all windows for good visibilty before starting your journey, check all lights are working & cleaned regulary. Always keep a shovel, torch, coat & change of footwear such as boots or wellingtons. If taking a long journey stock up with food & drink as well. Allow more time for your journey, then you will not be under pressure to drive faster than is safe.

When driving in slippery conditions always try to drive smoothly & slower than normal as sudden movements could cause you to loose control. Try to do your braking on the straights, never brake when cornering . Increase your distance between you and the car infront, driving in a lower gear when going down hill as this will help with engine braking allowing you to brake less. When starting off from a standing  start, try and use a higher gear than normal, usually 2nd, this feeds in the power more gently meaning less wheel spin. Plan your journey, choose roads that you know will be gritted if possible or have gentle slopes rather than steep ones.

Kevan Taylor, certified instructor with KT Driving www.ktdriving.com instructs beginners and certified learners and can be contacted at 017683 62082. If you are already certified, but are interested in increasing your confidence or further refining your driving skills please feel free to contact Kevan about Pass Plus courses. Thank you.

The Eden Declaration – Rory’s Campaign For Fast Broadband For Cumbria Gains Momentum

broadbandcumbria.com home page

broadbandcumbria.com home page

by Charles Paxton

BroadbandCumbria.Com is an exciting new communications hub set up to help communities find out about fast broadband opportunities and to talk to each other about plans and developments in their immediate and wider area. We’ve never seen anything quite like this before. It really is quite a revolutionary social experiment in community communications. Community broadband champions from villages across the Upper and Lower Eden Valley and beyond are gathering online under the banner of Rory Stewart’s campaign for better communications in his Penrith and the Border constituency. The rapidly increasing membership is hoping that fast broadband will help connect many communities (that have really hitherto seemed fairly geographically isolated dots on the map) both to one another and then on to the wider world with the powerful advantage of very fast speed!

To my knowledge this is the first time that this sort of campaign has ever been organised and it is very interesting to see how it is developing. The benefits for us could be very far reaching in terms of enhancing our quality of life, not least in terms of the new friendships and contacts being forged every hour, between many people who otherwise might never have met.

There has been a flood of interest in the evolving website, which is in effect a cluster of community microsites joined to the central hub of broadbandcumbria.com. Membership is free and takes just a few moments to complete. A list of communities that already have a microsite and those that have been offered one are visible here:  http://broadbandcumbria.com/community/

The Leith-Lyvennet microsite can be found at http://leith-lyvennet.broadbandcumbria.com This is for people in the ecclesiastical parishes of Crosby Ravensworth (Maulds Meaburn and Reagill), Morland (inc Newby, Sleagill, Kings Meaburn), Great Strickland, Little Strickland (Thrimby), Cliburn and Bolton. Let us know what you think of it so far, it’s a work in progress, and if you see opportunities for improvement, then please let me know.

The Eden Declaration

One of the most important results to emerge so far is the communal development of a document that succinctly and powerfully condenses our needs and desires in respect of improved communications infrastructure. It cuts to the chase. I urge everybody in Eden to read The Eden Declaration and, if you agree with its content, to sign it as soon as possible!

To sign the petition, please go to cumbriabroadband.com and register. Then go to ‘your account’, click on ‘profile’, click on ‘edit profile’, and scroll down until you see a ‘sign the petition’ box.

Tick this box and your name will appear on the list of signatories on the petition page: http://broadbandcumbria.com/sign-the-petition/

Current non-members have the option of signing the petition when they create an account on the site. It’s free to join. So, please pass this news on to your friends and neighbours by word of mouth, email, post, Facebook, Twitter, door-to-door at Church or at socials – any way that you can!
The more who sign-up, the merrier.  It will naturally be seen as a gauge of our collective enthusiasm and desire for improved communications services.

People new to the Internet may be interested to know that there is a very user-friendly training service available locally called Myguide. I have seen my elderly father using it and he is rapidly gaining confidence and facility with the system that provides a safe and gentle introduction to browsing the web and emailing.

Big Society Exemplified In Grand Visions For Fast Internet In Rural Cumbria – Part I

Mapping Our Access To The Information Superhighway -Penrith And The Borders Broadband Conference Shows That We Really Can Connect Cumbria’s ‘Final Third’ To The High Speed Lanes – if community engagement is sufficiently enthusiastic.

For Rory Stewart’s Broadband Website with an increasing array of conference related resources Please Click Here
Many, many thanks to our citizen reporter John Popham for filming and mounting his video on Youtube

PART I The Introduction and overview

(first in a series written between bouts of Apple Juicing)

Living near Penrith as I do, I’m used to seeing grand visions in the Rheged Visitor Centre’s excellent Imax auditoria – super high definition (and 3D) films of Ancient Egypt, The Kingdom of Rheged, Rainforest life, The Himalayas and Dinosaurs being notable examples, but I scarcely hoped to see the complexity of connecting our remote rural communities to high speed broadband covered so comprehensively and with such clarity as I did yesterday. It’s an interesting observation that the very conditions that make high-speed connectivity rather tricky around here are the ones that make it so important – anything that facilitates business, education, social networking, security and telemedecine development in remote rural areas has got to be a very good thing. I, for one, am counting on Rory’s initiative to work – because I sell and maintain websites, I like them to be visually attractive and to load quickly for my customers and their customers. That’s me – always wanting the moon, but I was gratified to learn at Rheged yesterday that it wasn’t just me who wants this moon – the reason that the Cumbrian networks are slowing down is that we Cumbrians are heavy users. We are prosumers (producer/consumers) exchanging large files on a regular basis, slapping up our Youtube and lapping up our iplayer video, TV, movies and on-line gaming. The great advances that Cumbria made in first generation access (99% availability by 2008 according to Richard Walters, CEO of Commendium) are starting to feel ready to be expanded upon. It’s not just our younger end that are sucking up the bandwidth now – the silver-haired web surfers are increasing in number, and why not? There’s just as much for us all on the net – and traders are fully cognisant of where the greater spending power resides.

A glance at some of the name badges in the foyer confirmed that this was an event of consequence – Rory Stewart’s Broadband Conference had gathered key figures in Government, the private sector, Education and Cumbrian communities and even some American experts, including some of the worlds ‘black-belt’ gurus of high speed connectivity under one roof in an event that was as well-planned as it was smoothly executed. Rheged made a fine venue for the conference.

Now follows a very brief and consolidated digest of what ensued in the first part of the conference, written to the best of my understanding which is admittedly incomplete ( a great deal was said and most of it was new to me and weighty) – I’ll attempt to complete it in later articles and I’d welcome any additional information that will beef-up or correct my account where necessary.

Our MP kicked off the conference with a punchy welcoming address to prepare us for the day ahead – he reminded us of the growing necessity to provide all our communities with access to realistically affordable future-proof broadband for lasting prosperous regional, national and international interactivity. He stressed the crucial element of community involvement, and the ‘do-ability’ of the task despite the complexity of the issues. He  promised to fight hard to facilitate community access to existing bandwidth through a shared enhancement of the CLEO fibre-optic network (established by CLEO from The University of Lancaster) via a Parish pump analogy. If government provides the green cabinets in the communities, it’s up to us to complete the last mile, i.e. get the fibre to our residences or to a transmitter that can send and receive wireless internet signals from devices in or on our homes and public buildings. He identified successful local models in the form of the Great Asby Broadband group and the Alston Cybermoor group and emphasised the likelihood of the need to employ multiple solutions within most communities. He also anticipated that things may become a bit heated at the conference as there are competing interests in terms of provision, but his hope that this wouldn’t become acrimonious was realised as speakers made their points positively and presented their own cases constructively. No mud was slung and at 5 o’clock I was impressed by the fact that it wasn’t all going to be about wires, fibres and fibre served wireless and that satellite will doubtlessly serve some remote homes, and if you are in one such now and you want your broadband very soon – then you may be prepared to pay the £25-£50 a month to secure a satellite service. For Next Generation Access by 2015 (speeds in the region of 50 to 100 Mbps that can handle anticipated future demands for very heavy data transfer) however, it is extremely likely that an optical fibre network will be doing the work.


Rory Stewart (Member of Parliament for Penrith and the Border) Introductory Speech

and

Ministerial Address by Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries

Our Minister of Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey MP, was the first guest speaker and he set the scene for us presenting a clear correlation between fast internet access and improved business and cultural activity. Referring to work that he had completed in a July 2010 consultation paper he stated that it was very necessary to open up existing public infrastructure in order to reach the government’s 2015 targets of universal service provision of Next Generation Access. He alluded to considerable spectra of unused bandwidth that could be efficiently used and the savings that could be achieved by communities laying their own fibre optic cables, costs of £120 per meter could be reduced to £20 per meter – and you’ve got local employment as a serendipitous spin-off.  Shall we dig out our spades? Some of us can, others may prefer to hire a friendly neighbouring Farmer’s Mole plough. More on that in a later article!

Furthermore, he announced that some of the £200,000,000 ‘underspend’ that had been earmarked for the national digital TV switchover could be employed to Cumbria’s benefit in public-private partnerships if people in communities demonstrated sufficient enthusiasm and engagement. Eden’s relatively small population might reasonably expect help to the tune of about £4 or 5 million – which might be sufficient if we’re fully engaged, make the wisest decisions and do our bit.

We next heard from a series of expert panels who guided us through the fascinating areas of: existing coverage (patchy and unlikely to meet govt. targets without a major effort), rural needs (increasingly heavy) and the potential that the technology offers (quality-of-life altering). Broadband was introduced as a fourth utility – increasingly essential in modern life, soon to be seen as equally essential as piped water. In many areas, the number one concern after affordable housing, in others out-ranking affordable housing. Adrian Wooster (Director of JON Exchange) told us about ‘Not Spots’ (places with no broadband access) and ‘Grot spots’ (places with slow broadband access). A series of maps showed the low number of providers (Penrith had 2) and where fast internet could not be found in the constituency. Most of Eden was pictured in red with a series of green circles showing communities that had some broadband access. The needs for fast broadband hinged upon potential impacts on shopping for goods and services, lifelong learning, social networking, telemedicine, business communication and connection to services – 89% of government services are available on the internet currently. These needs and potentials were further expanded upon by successive speakers and will be covered in greater detail in Part Two. It was later apparent that some of the maps could already be updated (this showing the mercurial realities of the issue).


Adrian Wooster (Director of JON Exchange)


Dr. Stuart Burgess (Chairman of The Commission for Rural Communities)


William Davies (Vice President of Technology Policy Research In Motion)

BT’s Bill Murphy, the managing director of Next Generation Access BT described what BT has achieved so far (running 5500 exchanges nationwide, all but 26)  serving millions of customers directly and millions more through 1400 communications providers) and what they hope to achieve yet through a £2.5 billion investment (the largest single private sector investment in broadband anywhere, ever), aiming for 70-80% coverage at 2Mbps or more by the end of 2012, and alluding to R&D in progress aiming for speeds of up to 40 Mbps over existing copper wire and hinting at hitherto untapped potentials in the use of Ethernet. Undoubtedly BT will be playing a part in speeding up connectivity for a lot of our communities, but what of the remaining 20-30% of people? And are they likely to be … you?


Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of Next Generation Access BT

The problem of getting backhaul (the power to upload data back onto the internet) was examined next, and in detail. Many people feel that the big providers , BT and Virgin are understandably likely to be very preoccupied with speeding up services for our urban populace and our small remote communities are likely to remain in the slowest lanes of the superhighway. That’s been the pattern so far and the next speaker, Barry Forde (NGA advisor to the government and key brain behind the CLEO network for schools) explained why it was necessary to break with that pattern and how it could be done. He pointed out that though Eden is 97.5% rural with half our population living in small villages and hamlets (so we’re not all likely to be part of BT’s 70-80%), we are blessed with three potential sources of public access to the core internet via fibre-optic cables, the Network Rail optical fibre network that runs alongside the Carlisle Settle railway track, and the CLEO network – a very forward-thinking program to connect our schools (Primary at 10 Mbps and Secondary and higher at 100 Mbps) and finally our NHS medical centres at 100 Mbps. While it could cost upwards of £40,000 to get 100Mbps backhaul independently, it would cost very much less to connect to the existing infrastructure provided that it was opened up. He advocated liberating that potential in unused bandwidth and sharing the costs in return for the access – boosting up the Primary schools’ backhaul to 100Mbps and sharing that cost with the local community users, tapping in to the Network rail and NHS networks too where that was feasible and likewise defraying costs. He was very persuasive and witty.


Barry Forde (NGA advisor to the government and key brain behind the CLEO network for schools)

Rory Stewart pointed out the usefulness of overlaying the maps that had been shown so far, so that we could all see how this was all fitting together.

I shall continue this account and tell you some of what the following speakers said in part 2 on another day.

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Cum T’t Show! Thursday 26th August

CROSBY RAVENSWORTH

SHOW and VINTAGE RALLY

Thursday 26th August 2010
from 10 am
at Low Bottom, Maulds Meaburn
(Between Kings Meaburn & Maulds Meaburn)

Traditional Westmorland show with classes for
horses & ponies, cattle, sheep, poultry, vintage
tractors & machinery, ploughing, baking,
horticulture, children’s craft and more.

CUMBERLAND + WESTMORLAND
WRESTLING at 12.45pm

CHILDREN’S SPORTS

FUN DOG SHOW

FOOD ALLIANCE MARKET
and other Trade Stands

Entrance fee: £5, children £1: FREE PARKING
Caterer in attendance and Licensed Bar
Enjoy a day out in the beautiful Lyvennet Valley

For more details please telephone : 01931 715248

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The Crosby Ravensworth Agricultural, Horticultural, Industrial, Poultry and Horse Show and Vintage Rally

(First Published in Lyvennet Community Plan Report 2009. For full report click here)

Always a red letter day, “T’t Show” has been the social event of the year for the Parish since its inception in 1856. Though much has changed through the 152 years, this is still true in this, its 140th year, the gap years were due to disruption by W.W.II and Foot and Mouth Disease . Originally held in Crosby Ravensworth, beside the Lyvennet, recently the event has been sited in a broad, flat field between Maulds and King’s Meaburn that is in many ways an ideal site. “Cumberland & Westmorland wrestling used to be popular and attract the crowds”, but it has been many years now since we heard the cry “Tak Hod!” (Take Hold!). This distinctive and popular sports contest has now been restored and Crosby Show is one of the few places where you can enjoy the tradition.

Crosby show is a delightful event that epitomises and encapsulates all that is worth celebrating in English rural life, and it can be enjoyed on a variety of levels. On the simplest level, for the visitor , the show allows a chance to see the fruits of everybody’s engagement in the celebration of all that they do best. This is a bewildering array of productive activity that ranges from growing our own flowers, fruit and vegetables to baking, jamming and flower-arranging to equestrian events and to the fine breeding of livestock.

There is a row of stalls and a jolly bouncy castle for the youngsters, then an equestrian arena for the pet show and of course the equestrian assessments and events themselves which show off the horses and riders very admirably.

The stock pens are always worth a close look, for here you can meet the cream of the local livestock. Even those who are ignorant of the finer points can recognise true class when they see it – and here it is, washed, combed  and  crowned with rosettes.  The proud aristocracy of Border and Blue-faced Leicesters, the top Texels, the supreme Swaledales and prize bullocks. In the poultry tent one is confronted by the sheer variety and true graceful majesty of  domestic fowl and some rabbits.

If you have never experienced onion-envy then it is possible that the Crosby Ravensworth Show’s produce tent will introduce you to the emotion. It’s not just the very high standard of everything on display that is breathtaking, but the painstaking organisation of the produce on the trestle tables and the artwork on the display boards is itself a wonder of  tessellation and diplomacy. It is very inspirational and great fun. For contributors the show offers all the aforementioned enjoyment, plus the pride of  display and  studied appraisal of  the current and future competition!

In the Lyvennet Valley Community Plan Report 2009 there were 61 comments made regarding The Show and these have been considered by the Show Committee and many ‘taken on board’ when planning this year’s event.  All being well, it’s going to be a grand day for all who attend!